GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
LOVERS LANE **
Directed by Jon Steven Ward.
Starring Matt Reidy, Richard Sanders, Sarah Lancaster, Riley Smith, Anna Faris, Erin J. Dean, Suzanne Bouchard.
Horror/Thriller, USA, 90 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray via Arrow Video on 24th April 2023.
With the latest SCREAM sequel currently doing the rounds, Arrow Video have delved into the archive marked ‘Post-SCREAM Slashers’ to revive LOVERS LANE, a 1999 entry that ticks all the right boxes to sit alongside the likes of URBAN LEGEND, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and VALENTINE but somehow doesn’t quite have the same public profile that those movies have with fans.
This might be because the plot of LOVERS LANE is too convoluted when it really could have done with being as simple as possible because, and let’s all be honest about this, these movies only need to do one thing well, and that is have gory and exciting kills. Unfortunately, LOVERS LANE, whilst having a few kills, misses the point in why audiences go to watch slasher movies and seems to think we need yet another vague detail that connects several of the main characters together, just in case we weren’t invested in this group already.
That isn’t to say that it should be all kills and no plot. No, one of the joys of a decent slasher movie is building up characters that we like in order to get us invested for their inevitable downfall, and LOVERS LANE starts off strong, featuring female nudity (tick), a hook-handed killer (tick) and a few bloody corpses (tick). However, it does also feature some forced emotional ‘acting’ and a terrible false moustache, both courtesy of Matt Reidy as Sheriff Tom Anderson, who visits a crime scene with his six-year-old daughter Mandy in the car – because who wouldn’t? – and discovers that one of the corpses that falls out of a car on Lovers Lane is his wife, and the other is of a man that he knows.
Fast forward to (then) present day and Sheriff Tom has had a shave but clearly not had any acting lessons, and Mandy (Erin J. Dean) is now a teenager at the local high school along with Michael (Riley Smith), who is the son of Principal Penny Lamson (Suzanne Bouchard) and whose father was the man whose corpse was discovered in the car with Mandy’s mother. Turns out that Ray - the hook-handed man they caught and arrested for the murders that night, and was also a patient of Dr. Jack Grefe (Richard Sanders), who himself also happened to be at that crime scene and whose teenage daughter Chloe (Sarah Lancaster) is also Michael’s ex-girlfriend, and, just in case he needed something else to add to his character, is also Sheriff Tom’s half-brother – has escaped from the asylum where he has been held all these years and he is apparently heading back to Lovers Lane to continue where he left off, just as Mandy, Michael, Chloe and a few more potential victims decide to meet up there for a night of doing whatever horny teenagers do. Can Sheriff Tom and Principal Penny get there in time to save their babies?
So essentially, the core plot of LOVERS LANE is an escaped killer heads back to the scene of the crime to despatch a new group of teens that any slasher fan has seen dozens of times over; after all, it isn’t the material but what you do with it that counts, and one look at the interview with writers Geof Miller and Rory Veal in the special features reveals that LOVERS LANE was cobbled together from the idea of a hook-handed killer but with a twist (you’ll have to watch the interview as it is a spoiler, so watch the movie first) and it is obvious that they were throwing whatever they could at their script to see what stuck – and all of it seemed to!
But where LOVERS LANE differentiates itself from SCREAM and the other slashers that came out around the same time is that it isn’t self-referential, does not mention other horror movies or feature a character that seems to know what to do in the event of a killer popping up, and doesn’t have smug, knowing dialogue, and when you take those things away from a SCREAM clone what you are left with is a slick and glossy slasher, with a gorgeous cast, a generic plot and, in this case, a load of extraneous details to try and fill in the gaps that just being generic does not fill; put it this way, Sheriff Tom and Doctor Jack do not need to be half-brothers – it does not add anything, go anywhere or make any difference to the story whatsoever, so why have it there?
On the positive side, though, is the fact that LOVERS LANE probably has more in common with ‘80s slashers in the way it plays out, which make sitting through it less painful than another meta ‘90s horror movie as you know where it is going and there is something quite comforting in that. The gore is fairly restrained throughout – as most of the kills happen off-screen - but the final ten minutes offers up a few action set pieces that up the ante a bit, being a case of too-little-too-late but after the sluggish mid-section it is very welcome, and the teenagers actually come off a bit better than usual here, the standard of acting being higher amongst the younger cast than the daytime soap opera delivery of Sheriff Tom and his fellow authority figures.
So, overall, LOVERS LANE is not an essential slasher movie of its era – or any era, really – and if you missed it back in 1999/2000 you haven’t really missed much. However, watching it now, there is a certain air of nostalgia to it, highlighting an era that didn’t throw up as many classics as the slasher boom of the ‘80s, but will always be a certain generation’s entry into the genre. It certainly isn’t the worst offender from that period, but neither is it anything you haven’t seen done better in numerous other movies, so if you do decide to give it a watch then don’t expect anything more than a serviceable slasher. If you decide to skip it, you aren’t any worse off.
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